Review: “American Vampire, Volume IV” by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, & Jordi Bernet

Title: American Vampire, Volume IV
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque, Jordi Bernet, Roger Cruz, & Riccardo Burchielli
Series: American Vampire (Volume IV, Issues #19-27)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Vertigo, 2012

My library finally got in the next several volumes of American Vampire, among other things! So that’s awesome, and has the side-effect of placing a large stack of graphic novels next to my bed for the immediate future. Since this is a series, this review will unavoidably offer some spoilers for previous volumes (Volume I/Volume II/Volume III). You’ve been warned….

This volume contains three different stories from the world of American Vampire. First off, we have The Beast In The Cave, which shines a light on the relationship between Skinner Sweet and Jim Book before the one became an outlaw and the other became a lawman, starting with their childhood as near-brothers and continuing into their actions in the Indian Wars. Turns out, Skinner Sweet wasn’t the first vampire forged in the New World. That honor goes to Mimiteh, the young native girl who played Sacajawea to an expedition led by a pair of vampires. The experience proved…transformative. Now rogue Apache leader Hole In The Sky plans to unleash Mimeteh and her fury on the Cavalry forces hunting him. If she cooperates, that is…. On the whole, this was good stuff. It was good to see some more of the backstory between Book and Sweet before their eventual parting of the ways, and Jordi Bernet’s artwork was a good match to the general feel established by Rafael Albuquerque–enough so that I didn’t realize it wasn’t him doing the work on this particular story. You could, however, argue that Mimiteh and her story somewhat undercuts the significance of the events in the first volume and steals the thunder from Sweet. Oh well, moving on.

Returning to the forward-moving portion of the story, i.e. 1954, we meet young vampire hunter Travis Kidd in Death Race. Kidd is on the hunt, taking down vampires wherever he can find them, nest by nest, always looking towards the day he finds himself face to face with the man he holds responsible for the death of his family: Skinner Sweet. Throw a pretty girl and the Vassals Of The Morningstar into the mix, and things are about to heat up…. This story was decent, if a little disjointed due to all the flashbacks. I like the character of Travis Kidd, and hope he shows up again in future volumes. I could have done with a little more explanation of how Sweet survived his apparent demise in 1945, but I suspect that may be a story saved for a future flashback session while Albuquerque catches up on his penciling.

Rounding out the volume, we have an adventure with Calvin Poole in The Nocturnes. You may remember Poole from Volume III, he was the young African-American Marine that went in with the Vassals Of The Morningstar to clean up the vamps on Taipan. When we saw him last, he was lying in an army hospital as a surgeon dug the fragments of a glass vial out of his chest. A glass vial which Pearl Jones had sent with her husband Henry in case of emergency. A vial that contained just enough of her blood to turn a man into a vampire….Now Poole works as a taxonomist for the Vassals, identifying what species they’re dealing with in a given situation. Today, however, Poole is taking a day off to go see his brother play a gig in a sleepy little Alabama town. Turns out, however, that Alabama is generally not a healthy place for a black man in 1954. And this particular town? It’s worse than usual. A decent story focused on an interesting side character, marred slightly by the artwork in my humble opinion. The first half of the two-part story, penciled by Roger Cruz, was decent. It was noticeably different from Albuquerque’s style, but aside from that there was nothing to complain about. That’s not even necessarily a problem. For whatever reason, however, Cruz didn’t draw the second half. That torch was passed on to Riccardo Burchielli, who either failed or never even tried to match Cruz’s artwork. It just didn’t work for me somehow. Maybe you’ll disagree, I can’t say.

CONTENT: As I’ve stated before, Vertigo comics are not for kiddies. R-rated language. Bloody, disturbing violence, as you should expect from a comic with the word “vampire” in the title. No overt sexual content, but there is some nudity. Mimiteh doesn’t wear a stitch of clothing outside of her origin flashbacks, and we get a nightmare-image of Calvin Poole’s wife naked and covered in vampire bites. I have no idea what that’s about, I imagine we’ll find out in future volumes. There is some implied sexual content, but nothing explicit. Mimiteh spent her childhood first as servant then as wife to a French trapper, who then sold her services as a guide to the vampire exploration party. You can draw your own conclusions as to how old she was when her duties changed, since she never says. You can also draw your own conclusions as to what Travis and Piper have been doing all night in his car before he takes her home at the beginning of Death Race.

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